Eleven MRSA outbreaks at Barts and BHRUT hospitals this year

King George (top) and Queen's (bottom) have had two MRSA cases each this year.

King George (top) and Queen's (bottom) have had two MRSA cases each this year. - Credit: Archant

East London hospitals had the most outbreaks of “superbug” MRSA in London so far this year, Public Health England figures reveal.

MRSA is a bacteria resistant to many antibiotics and can result in fatal infections. The NHS has a “zero tolerance” stance on hospital outbreaks.

In the first seven months of the year, Barts Health and BHRUT had the first and second highest number of outbreaks of any London trusts.

Barts Health NHS Trust, which manages Newham, Royal London, Mile End, Barts and Whipps Cross hospitals, had seven outbreaks – the highest in London.

Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, which manages Queen’s in Romford and King George in Goodmayes, had four outbreaks. It is understood each hospital had two.

Magda Smith, BHRUT’s chief medical officer, said: “We take keeping our patients safe from infections such as MRSA extremely seriously.

“All patients are screened for this when admitted to our hospitals. If they have MRSA, they are isolated from others to prevent the risk of transmission, and staff caring for them protect themselves by wearing PPE.

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“We also identify which patients are most at risk of MRSA, such as those with open wounds, so we can take additional steps to protect them.”

Dr Smith added: “The potential causes are looked into in every case so we can learn from them and improve care for our patients.

“Fortunately this is unusual, therefore these numbers are too small to allow us to draw conclusions about the patient’s residence, or the hospital where they have been treated.”

A spokesperson for Barts Health NHS Trust said that, while “providing safe care is a key priority”, the trust is one of the biggest in England, with a large number of inpatients.

They added: “There are robust infection control measures in place across our hospitals and we are committed to reducing the spread of infection.

“Following review meetings for each case we made improvements to our processes to enhance our patients’ safety, including revisiting the products used to decontaminate skin and how intravenous lines are inserted.”

Hospital workers are advised to prevent the spread of MRSA by washing their hands between patients and carefully cleaning hospital rooms and medical equipment.

In 2014, Cambridge scientists questioned whether the NHS’s “zero tolerance” stance was realistic, arguing it might be impossible to entirely stop the spread of the bacteria.